Homeless and Abroad: Couchsurfing

You want to travel? Do it.

Don’t contemplate where you may go or stay or eat, just go. Jump into this world of culture with a thirst for knowledge, friendship and a kind heart. Think and feel like this and everything will work out. How? Because nothing works out bad when everything is an adventure. Nothing went wrong, it just wasn’t meant to work that way.

Around many cities in Europe there’s a lot of graffiti, sculptures and social criticism to be seen. This stone plaque on a random apartment building’s wall in Paris, France was among my favorites. Photo by Andrew Fraieli.
Around many cities in Europe there’s a lot of graffiti, sculptures and social criticism to be seen. This stone plaque on a random apartment building’s wall in Paris, France was among my favorites. | Photo by Andrew Fraieli.

This summer, I traveled to 13 different countries in Europe in two months with only $600. Essentially being homeless and broke, I hitchhiked everywhere and survived off the kindness of others. In doing so, I learned a lot about politics, culture, history and people in general.

Couchsurfing was a key part of my survival. Couchsurfing is a website that connects travelers in hopes of having one be able to offer the other a spare couch to sleep. You meet people from around the world and get a place to crash for free, hopefully making a friend as well. It’s a tremendous help to travelers on a budget, and how I had a place to sleep most places I went. Unfortunately, by mid-summer there weren’t many hosts available because everyone was travelling. That’s when I had to get creative.

I stood for seven hours until the sun started to set. Not wanting to sleep on the highway, I started to dodge cars and jump across highway off-ramps towards the city.

After about a month into by excursion, I had to be even more social and talk to everyone from people in bars to guys playing ukulele on the street in the hopes that they’d give me a place to hang my head for a night. But I got a lot more than just that.

I learned how to say thank you in 13 languages, to be polite and make people more open to talking to me. I learned that everyone wishes to travel, as I got to meeting most people by telling the story of my adventure. And, I learned that people are inherently nice.

Anything outside of any major cities in Hungary and Slovakia is usually farmland, and lends itself to beautiful sites. This being one of them on my ride from Budapest to Bratislava. Photo by Andrew Fraieli.
Anything outside of any major cities in Hungary and Slovakia is usually farmland, and lends itself to beautiful sites. This being one of them on my ride from Budapest to Bratislava. | Photo by Andrew Fraieli.

If you don’t believe me, which is likely seeing how media portrays the world, then you won’t believe what happened to me in France. But, then again, I barely do.

My day started at 9 a.m. out of Metz, a city about four hours east of Paris. It took me three hours to get out of the city, and eventually I got to a spot just outside a small town called Saint-Avold another three hours later. This spot was horrible. No cars stopped. I stood for seven hours until the sun started to set. Not wanting to sleep on the highway, I started to dodge cars and jump across highway off-ramps towards the city.

Strasbourg, a city on the eastern border of France and walking distance of the German border by bridge. This is in the city center, an area that survived WWII and therefore retained its beautiful original buildings. Photo by Andrew Fraieli.
Strasbourg, a city on the eastern border of France and walking distance of the German border by bridge. This is in the city center, an area that survived WWII and therefore retained its beautiful original buildings. | Photo by Andrew Fraieli.

Before I did so, I sent a message to the only person in this city who had been on Couchsurfing in the past two years (three weeks prior), as a last ditch effort. I told her that I was a hitchhiker stuck in her town with no ride or place to sleep and no money. Just as I approached the edge of the town from the highway she sent me a message telling me she didn’t live in Saint-Avold anymore.

But her parents did.

That night, I, a random hitchhiker who barely spoke French and had never even met this girl, stayed at her parents house and was given a warm bed, dinner and a ride to a truck stop in the morning with no more than empathy as a reason for their kindness. And I survived another day.

Check back next Monday to read more about my adventures abroad.

 

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